Restaurant With Kids? You’ve Got This

I tapped chefs and food professionals for their advice on family dining at nice restaurants. Here are my additional recommendations,
from getting the lay of the land to keeping a trough-load of tricks up your sleeve.

  Cheers!  At the new  Elora Mill Restaurant , an hour outside of Toronto, we dressed up, dined at 6, and took this little lady out of the dining room anytime she fussed. 

Cheers! At the new Elora Mill Restaurant, an hour outside of Toronto, we dressed up, dined at 6, and took this little lady out of the dining room anytime she fussed. 

Pick Up the Phone

Call in advance and ask about the best family friendly tables, perhaps in a lively bar area or on an outdoor patio. The right setting can make the occasional kiddie squeal less cringe-worthy.

Know When To Throw in Your Hand

Is your kid acting up? Take them outside for a breather. They can burn off some energy, and you won’t disturb other diners.

Pick an Off Time

Traveling with young kids doesn't mean having to miss out on destination restaurants, but you might want to opt for a lunch service instead of dinner, or book a table during slower hours. In London, I was dying to eat at Ottolenghi but was anxious about bringing Thomas, who, at 15 months, was at a particularly squirmy age. We went at 2:30 PM and made the meal relatively quick. (To my surprise, they were well equipped with IKEA high chairs.) 

Dress for the Occasion

Will your three-year-old spill all over his new button-down shirt? Yes. But you should still put it to use, and—just like on an airplane—an adorable outfit might earn you a few encouraging smiles from neighboring tables.  

 A few board books and the promise (or bribe?) of chocolate ice cream kept Thomas engaged for an entire lunch at the upscale  June's All Day  in Austin. 

A few board books and the promise (or bribe?) of chocolate ice cream kept Thomas engaged for an entire lunch at the upscale June's All Day in Austin. 

See the Bigger Picture

Dining out teaches kids about different foods, social and cultural norms, and table manners and conversation. It may be hard to appreciate this as they pick every fleck of basil out of their pasta, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

When in Rome

Take heart in the fact that parents often dine out with their kids in other countries. Unlike in the U.S., where showing up with a kid at a non-chain restaurant can feel  embarrassing, family dining is expected in places like Mexico and Italy.

 At  Ottolenghi  in Spitalfields, London, where we dined at 2:30 to avoid the lunch rush. 

At Ottolenghi in Spitalfields, London, where we dined at 2:30 to avoid the lunch rush. 

Say No to Screens

Think twice before handing your kiddo an iPad or cell phone, especially in certain countries like France where the practice isn’t common. Restaurants are a great places to brush up on manners and practice the art of conversation—even if it is about super heroes and rocket ships.   

 

Have more tips? Give me a shout below.